Your little one is adorable and has the clothes to match, but let's face it: after months and months of lying there while you dressed them, things have taken a turn in toddlerhood. The clothes are still cute, but your toddler is probably less than cooperative when it comes to getting dressed.
Sound familiar? Here are some ideas for when and how to help your toddler get dressed independently.
At what age should children dress themselves?
As a parent, you inevitably have a few questions that stump you. As your baby grows from a baby to a toddler and becomes more independent, you'll definitely find yourself wondering, "When should a child dress themselves, anyway?"
Experts say that most children will begin simple dressing activities by 2.5 years old, though they’re often interested as much as a year earlier. As you likely already know, toddlers enjoy undressing as soon as they are developmentally able.
How to teach a child to dress themselves
Your toddler has been aware of clothing for some time, so they likely know the basics of dressing. A few tools and some guidance from you can help them move beyond that.
Here are some tips that can help with teaching a child to dress themselves:
Limit options: Limiting choices can make the process a little easier on everyone. Offer two or three pre-selected outfits or separates. Your child is still making a choice, but not agonizing over all the options in their closet. As a bonus, their choices are sure to be seasonally-appropriate.
Start small: Don’t expect your toddler to be able to pick up a shirt and put it over their head in one day. Instead, start by helping them get their arms in and then letting them pull it down by themselves.
Rethink clothing with zippers and buttons: While your toddler does need to practice fine motor skills, the early days of dressing might not be the best time for this. They’ll be more successful (and feel more independent) if they’re able to put pants and shirts on without your help, so stick to comfy elastics when possible.
Add stools or chairs: Toddlers aren’t known for great balance, so balancing themselves to get pants on can be tricky. Add a stool or chair to the area where they usually get dressed, as well as where they put on shoes.
Work on fine motor skills: Some toys and dolls come with buttons and zippers for children to play with. Practicing these skills with toys when they’re not in a time crunch is one way to develop fine motor skills required for independent dressing.
Have patience: Whether it’s picking out the day’s outfit or struggling to put on a shoe (or two), self-dressing will take some getting used to, for both of you. While your kid is learning to dress themselves, you’ll need to build in extra time to get, well, anywhere. Having that extra time will allow you to relax and not jump in right away with assistance if your child is struggling. Sometimes your help will be needed, but other times your little one needs just a few more minutes of effort.
Toddlerhood isn't easy on anyone, even that little one in the cute outfit. Take heart: while your toddler will still need you for lots of little things, soon, dressing won't be one of them.